Ford building coronavirus respirators using fans from cooled SEATS

Ford parts in PPE manufacturing

Ford is lending its manufacturing and engineering prowess, and creative ingenuity, to the fight against coronavirus.

It will be helping the expansion of production of various medical supplies, including air-purifying respirators.

Off-the-shelf parts are being repurposed for new designs.

Ford Filtration System design

These include the fans usually found in high-end air conditioned ‘cooling’ seats. They’re normally used in Ford F-150 pickups. 

Ford is working with 3M, which is suppling HEPA air filters, to develop respirators for healthcare workers. 

ALSO READ: McLaren and Nissan join race to build ventilators

“This is such a critical time for America and the world,” said Ford executive chairman Bill Ford.

“By coming together across multiple industries, we can make a real difference for people in need and for those on the front lines of this crisis.

“At Ford, we feel a deep obligation to step up and contribute in times of need, just as we always have through the 117-year history of our company.”

Ventilators, respirators and face shields

Ford parts in PPE manufacturing

Ford is working in other areas of personal protection equipment development and manufacturing, too.

The automaker is collaborating with GE Healthcare to expand production of its ventilator. Ford will potentially be able to manufacture the ventilators at one of its locations. This will supplement supply from the main GE facility.

Ford’s design team is also working on the design and testing of transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders.

The first 1,000 are this week going for testing at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace hospitals.

Roughly 75,000 shields could be finished this week. The brand is putting its recent developments in 3D printing capability and technology to the test.

Ford parts in PPE manufacturing

“Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment,” said Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO. 

“We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs.

“We are focusing our efforts to help increase the supply of respirators, face shields and ventilators that can help assist health care workers, first responders, critical workers as well as those who have been infected by the virus.”

Make people green with envy over this low-mileage 1978 Ford Country Squire

BaT Ford LTD Country Squire

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day may be a little harder than usual this year, but this is one way to keep things verdant and green.

Currently listed for auction on Bring a Trailer, this 1978 Ford LTD Country Squire has the most amazing combination of green exterior and interior. 

It may not necessarily bring you the luck of the Irish, but for fans of classic woodie station wagons this could certainly last longer than another pint of Guinness. 

The biggest green machine around

BaT Ford LTD Country Squire

The seventh-generation of Ford’s long-running Country Squire name was introduced in 1969. A comprehensive redesign saw full-size Fords become even bigger, with the wheelbase for the LTD range now stretched to 121-inches. 

An update in 1973 saw the addition of 5 mph impact bumpers. This pushed the total length of the Country Squire to over 225 inches, whilst the curb weight tipped the scales in excess of 4,700 lb.

This would be the last of the giant full-size offerings, with Ford later moving to the shorter Panther platform in 1979. It makes this particular Country Squire one of the final wagons built on such a vast scale. 

Clad with a forest of fake trees 

BaT Ford LTD Country Squire

The main reason why we are so excited for this Country Squire is the color. Ford’s Dark Jade Metallic is the particular hue used here, contrasting neatly with the vinyl wood grain cladding. 

Only Country Squire models were fitted with the acres of imitation timber trim, unlike regular LTD-based wagons. Being the range-topping model also meant concealed headlights, a deluxe chrome roof rack, and a rear wind deflector. 

Ford’s ‘Magic Doorgate’ was also fitted, allowing the tailgate to open in three different ways. This meant for multiple ways to access the cavernous cargo space at the rear.  

Room for all the family

BaT Ford LTD Country Squire

Inside, this Country Squire is just as green as it is outside. Optional Jade Duraweave trim – a vinyl said to imitate cloth – matches the exterior almost perfectly. The roof lining and carpets are, of course, green. 

Naturally, there is even more wood grain trim on the inside, covering the dashboard, steering wheel, and door panels. The full experience of the late 1970s means the Country Squire comes fitted with equipment such as an AM/FM/8-track stereo, plus air conditioning and power brakes. 

More importantly, the original owner plumped for the pair of third-row jump seats that fold into the trunk floor. It takes the potential for up to 10 people to cram hop onboard, and still leave some space for luggage.

Ready for relaxed road trips across the country

BaT Ford LTD Country Squire

However, carrying so much weight is unlikely to aid the performance of this wagon. Made in the heart of the malaise era, this Country Squire comes with Ford’s 351-cubic inch V-8.

It makes for a total of 145 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque heading to the rear wheels, through a three-speed Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission. The first owner did specify a Traction Lok differential, though.

What makes this Country Squire staggering is that it has covered only 5,000 miles from new. It was first sold in old new by John Stenach Ford of Plymouth, Pennsylvania, with the owners later passing the car to their nephew. 

It was then put into storage for 25 years, before being reacquired by John Stenach Ford. The current seller, based in California, bought the wagon five years ago. 

Still want that new SUV?

BaT Ford LTD Country Squire

In a world that feels somewhat chaotic right now, there is something reassuring and familiar about a station wagon clad in wood grain. It has all the practicality, if not the gas mileage, of a modern SUV but without the predictability. 

Having had such little use, this Country Squire is seemingly ready for family road trips again. Or, gentle cruises to car meets and classic shows later in the year. 

It has already attracted the interest of many commenters on Bring a Trailer, with other 130 comments posted on the listing so far.

The auction itself runs until Monday, March 23rd with this big wagon looking set to gain plenty of bids.

Ford teams up with gamers to design a racing car

Ford designing a race car with gamers

Ford is teaming up with gamers to create ‘the ultimate track machine’. Ford’s first virtual race car will be designed from the ground up, rather than based on an existing model.

The car is codenamed Team Fordzilla P1. Captains of the five Fordzilla esports teams from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK will be collaborating with Ford on the vehicle.

“Coming up with a no-holds-barred race car for the virtual world is when the gloves come off and the design team can really let their imaginations fly,” said Amko Leenarts, director, Design, Ford of Europe.

“The expertise of gamers is crucial to ensuring that this will be the best-looking car on the grid.”

Ford designing a race car with gamers

Ford will be canvassing the wider gaming community for its input, too, with social media polls via Twitter. These will reference everything from the engine to the shape of the cockpit. Work on the project begins this week.

“We all love racing our dream cars but ultimately these are usually painstaking recreations of vehicles that actually exist in the real world,” said Leah Alexandra, captain of the UK Fordzilla team.

“It will be an absolute thrill to get behind the wheel of the Team Fordzilla P1 for the first time knowing that not only have we helped to create it but that no-one else has ever driven it before.”

Ford designing a race car with gamers

This Ford is just the latest of many virtual-only cars. The concept was pioneered for the famed racing title Gran Turismo.

A number of manufacturers have designed special Vision Gran Turismo models purely for the virtual world. Some have even built them for real. From what Ford is saying of this Fordzilla P1, it will be something entirely different, unlike, say, Bugatti’s Vision Gran Turismo car. 

Ford Fiesta

Ford cuts Fiesta production in response to falling UK sales

Ford Fiesta

News coming out of Germany suggests we could be falling out of love with the Ford Fiesta.

Ford has cut production of the Fiesta in response to a number of factors, including a drop in UK sales. Production at the Cologne plant will reduce from five to four days a week, according to Automotive News Europe.

The plant builds 1,150 Fiestas a day, with a third of this output going to the UK. Although the Fiesta remains Britain’s best-selling car, registrations have been on a downward trend.

A Ford spokesperson told Automotive News Europe: “Southern Europe and the United Kingdom are seeing weaker demand [for the Fiesta] leading to the need to adjust production.”

In a separate development, Ford has confirmed that the new Puma will be recalled, and deliveries halted, due to problems with the driver’s airbag.

Still the UK’s number one

Grey Ford Fiesta Vignale

In 2018, registrations totalled just under 96,000 – an amazing 50 percent higher than its nearest rival, the Volkswagen Golf. A year later, registrations fell to almost 78,000. Still the UK’s number one, but with registrations reflecting a falling market.

Year-to-date figures put the Ford Fiesta on 6,087 – 800 ahead of the Ford Focus in second place. 

The UK new car market declined -7.3 percent in the first month of 2020, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) blaming “continued confusion surrounding diesel and clean air zones and ongoing weak consumer and business confidence”.

‘Moving the goalposts’

Ford Fiesta is Britain's best-selling car of 2019

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The new car market is a key driver of the UK’s overall economy, so another month of decline is unsettling. Consumer confidence is not returning to the market and will not be helped by government’s decision to add further confusion and instability by moving the goalposts on the end of sale of internal combustion engine cars.

“While ambition is understandable, as we must address climate change and air quality concerns, blanket bans do not help short-term consumer confidence. To be successful, government must lead the transition with an extensive and appropriately funded package of fiscal incentives, policies and investment to drive demand. We want to deliver air quality and environmental improvements now but need a strong market to do so.”

50 years of classic Fords

Celebrating 50 years of classic Fords

50 years of classic Fords

In January 1970, the first vehicle left the assembly line at the Ford plant in Saarlouis. Since then, more than 15 million cars have rolled out of the German factory, including the Escort, Capri, Focus, C-Max and Kuga. Here, we celebrate 50 years of the plant with the help of some archive photos.

Work begins in 1966

50 years of classic Fords

The Saarlouis plant is situated on the site of the former Roderberg airfield in Germany, about 15 minutes from the border with France. The foundation stone was laid by Ford General Manager Robert G. Layton on 16 September 1966.

Roderberg arfield

50 years of classic Fords

This photo from 1966 shows the Roderberg airfield before construction had started. Until then, the 1.4 million square-metre factory area was overgrown with meadows and trees.

30 years later…

50 years of classic Fords

Things looked a little different in 1996.

The first bodyshell

50 years of classic Fords

Although the Saarlouis plant didn’t officially open until 1970, the first Ford Escort body shell was completed on 20 October 1969. The plant also manufactured body parts for other European Ford plants, but also for Renault.

The first Ford Escort

50 years of classic Fords

The first Ford Escort rolled off the Saarlouis production line on 16 January 1970. The prime minister of Saarland, Franz-Josef Roder, had the honour of driving the car off the assembly line. The Escort was powered by a 1.1-litre engine producing a rather modest 40hp.

A beautiful Ford plant

50 years of classic Fords

Henry Ford II, the grandson of the company founder, is pictured signing the founding certificate at the official inauguration of the plant in June 1970. He described the Saarlouis factory as “one of the most beautiful Ford plants in the world”.

The car you always promised yourself

50 years of classic Fords

From 1971 to 1975, around 150,000 examples of the Ford Capri rolled out of the Saarlouis plant. The one millionth Capri, an RS2600, was completed on 29 August 1973.

The first Ford Fiesta

50 years of classic Fords

The first Ford Fiesta rolled off the Saarlouis production line on 11 May 1976. By 1980, more than 700,000 units of the popular small car had been produced at the German plant. Today, it’s the best-selling new car in Britain.

Fiesta festival

50 years of classic Fords

What a brilliant photo – new Fiestas as far as the eye can see. Of these, how many are still on the road? Yellow was far more popular in the 1970s than it is today.

Two million and counting

50 years of classic Fords

The two millionth vehicle to be built at the Saarlouis plant was completed in 1980. A good way to mark the 10th anniversary of the German factory.

Ford Escort Mk3

50 years of classic Fords

In 1981, the Ford Escort was named European Car of the Year. As well as Saarlouis, the Escort Mk3 was also built in Halewood, Spain and Brazil.

Five million cars

50 years of classic Fords

Saarlouis production hit five million in February 1990. The milestone car was a fourth-generation Ford Escort. We suspect the factory workers were delighted to be chosen to hold one of the seven figures.

Saarlouis in 1997

50 years of classic Fords

This photo of the sprawling Saarlouis plant was taken in 1997. Note the railway line, which is used to transport cars across Europe. If you look closely you might be able to spot a yellow Mk1 Fiesta. Probably.

Ford Focus

50 years of classic Fords

The Ford Focus is another ‘son of Saarlouis’. Just a year after the start of production, the Focus was named 1999 European Car of the Year.

Ford Focus RS

50 years of classic Fords

The Ford Focus RS was built on its own assembly line at the Saarlouis plant. Production was limited to 4,501 units between October 2002 and November 2003. Nearly half were sold in the UK, making it the biggest market for the Focus RS.

Ford C-Max

50 years of classic Fords

Production of the Ford Focus C-Max began in November 2003. After the facelift of 2007, the Focus part of the name was dropped, with the MPV now known as the Ford C-Max. By 2019, some 1.2 million C-Max cars had been built in Saarlouis.

A Saarlouis wedding

50 years of classic Fords

Ford calls this a ‘wedding’. It sees the platform-sharing Focus and C-Max on the same production line, where the body and drive units are assembled.

10 million cars

50 years of classic Fords

Yet another milestone. In July 2005, Saarland’s prime minister, Peter Muller (left) and Ford’s Bernhard Mattes were on hand to celebrate the 10 millionth vehicle to be built in Saarlouis. Most of the people in this photo look delighted.

Ford Kuga

50 years of classic Fords

The first Ford Kuga rolled off the production line in 2008. Today, the Kuga is the most popular SUV in Germany.

We run green

50 years of classic Fords

From July 2008, vehicles at the Saarlouis plant were converted to liquified gas (LPG) for the first time, followed a year later by natural gas (CNG) technology.

Saarlouis at work

50 years of classic Fords

This photograph taken in 2010 shows a vehicle sidewall in production at the Saarlouis plant.

Ford Focus Electric

50 years of classic Fords

In June 2013, the first Ford Focus Electric rolled off the production line in Saarlouis. It was the first fully electric Ford in Europe and the first pure electric car to be produced in Germany.

C-Max returns to Saarlouis

50 years of classic Fords

Ford moved production of the C-Max to Valencia in 2010, but it returned to Saarlouis in 2014. Here we see the C-Max, Grand C-Max and lots of happy people.

15 million cars

50 years of classic Fords

Disappointingly, Ford didn’t re-use the figures from the five million milestone when celebrating the 15 millionth car. This photograph was taken in December 2019, just a month before the 50th anniversary of the Saarlouis plant. When the first Escort rolled off the production line in 1970, production capacity was 20 units a day. Today, that number has increased to 1,160.

Spoiler alert: Your chance to buy a prototype Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth

Ford Sierra RS500 prototype

Fast Ford royalty is going under the hammer at the Silverstone Auctions Race Retro show sale. Any Sierra RS500 Cosworth is a valuable machine, but this specific example is especially significant. As chassis number 003, it’s one of the prototypes originally owned by Ford.

This car was integral to the genesis of the RS500. ‘D114 VEV’ was one of four Sierras used by Ford in the development of the iconic model and was used for testing the intercooler and turbo systems.

The car now features an Eggenberger Motorsport engine from Steve Soper’s own racing RS500. Once Soper returned the car, Ford swapped the engine from chassis number 010 to 003.

The body has done 69,000 verifiable miles, with certification from the RS500 Owners Club. The car is estimated to fetch between £60,000 and £70,000 when it goes under the hammer.

“These cars are very highly sought-after and this particular car, one of the first and with the provenance it has, will generate a lot of interest,” said Joe Watts of Silverstone Auctions. “It’s probably the best surviving prototype out there.”

Silverstone Auctions Race Retro sale Sierra Prototype

Joining the Cosworth will be another fast Ford from a decade earlier: a 1978 Escort RS2000 Custom. Described as ‘fanatically original’, it has 64,450 miles on the clock and is unrestored, although it has recently been recommissioned. It’s estimated to make between £30,000 and £35,000.

Silverstone Auctions Race Retro sale Sierra Prototype

At the more exotic end of the spectrum is one of just 50 Ferrari 348 GT Competiziones. With F40 Evo-derived brakes, a lightweight 1,180kg kerb weight and just 14,500 miles, expected to pay between £120,000 and £150,000.

Silverstone Auctions Race Retro sale Sierra Prototype

Finally, we circle back to another 1980s legend. For between £65,000 and £75,000, you could own a Renault 5 Turbo 2. With Gotti wheels and just 37,572 miles, it joins the Sierra as one of the great homologation specials.

Opinion: The rise and fall of Mondeo Man

The rise and fall of the Mondeo Man

Today, if you said the car the latest BMW 3 Series had to beat was the Ford Mondeo, we’d laugh you back to 1998.

Such was the popularity of Ford’s resident repmobile back then, ‘Mondeo Man’ became shorthand for middle-management and middle-of-the-road. Meanwhile, the car proliferated on company car fleets and the driveways of aspirational workers country-wide.

Twenty years ago, annual Mondeo registrations were upwards of 60,000, but already on the decline. Last year, just 5,000 new Ford Mondeos were sold. So what happened?

Attacked from within

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While it’s generally thought that once-premium cars entering the mainstream did most damage, other theories have been posited.

According to research by Glass’s, the Mondeo could have been cannibalised from within. Sales haven’t come within 15,000 of its 100,000 record year since 1998 – the year the revolutionary Ford Focus went on sale. 

The Focus sold 100,000 in its first year, climbing to over 150,000 at its peak in 2002. Before 2018’s low of 50,000 registrations, it hadn’t dipped much below 80,000 since its debut. Mondeo Man, seemingly, looked to downsize.

The rise of the crossoverThe rise and fall of the Mondeo Man

What also cannot be ignored when charting the demise of the Mondeo, and indeed the fall in popularity of the Focus, is the rise of the crossover. The year 2006 saw the introduction of the revolutionary Nissan Qashqai.

Both for the Mondeo and the Focus, 2007 subsequently saw a downturn in sales, in spite of Ford’s introduction of the fresh ‘Kinetic Design’ third-generation Mondeo. Not even putting Bond behind the wheel could save it from the rise of the high-risers. 

The Qashqai sold like hotcakes, offering the high driving position and bulky presence of an SUV for family hatchback prices. The subsequent market saturation all but smothered the Mondeo and its D-segment kin.

The rise and fall of the Mondeo Man

Ford’s got in on the party, too, launching the Kuga in 2008. Today, it sells the Ecosport, Puma and Kuga SUVs. The traditional Mondeo soldiers on, but has been relegated to third-row in Ford dealers.

“Quite simply, a wider variety of models on offer and a more diverse range of body styles has turned the tide for what was a traditional market of hatchback and saloons in the UK,” says Jonathan Brown, car editor at Glass’s.

Ford’s 3D-printed wheel nuts could prevent theft

Ford locking wheel nuts stop thieves

Ford has patented a unique 3D-printed locking wheel nut designed to thwart alloy wheel thieves. So, could the days of finding your pride and joy up on bricks be coming to an end?

The 3D printing itself is clever, but even smarter is what it enables. By using the technique, you can create whatever pattern you want for the nuts, and for their key.

Ford locking wheel nuts stop thieves

As an example, Ford developed a way to record your voice, then convert the sound waves into the locking nut’s indentation. It’s unique, like a fingerprint for your car.

Using wax to clone the pattern is virtually impossible, too. Ford calls it a second-level security feature, using unevenly-spaced ribs inside the nut, plus indentations that widen the deeper they go.

It’s not only soundwaves that could be used to make the lock and key either. Any shape you like, from the Mustang logo to your favourite racetrack, can be adapted.

Ford locking wheel nuts stop thieves

“It’s one of the worst experiences for a driver, to find their car up on blocks with all four wheels gone,” said Raphael Koch, a research engineer at Ford.

“Some alloy wheels can cost thousands to replace, but these unique rim nuts will stop thieves in their tracks.

“Making wheels more secure and offering more product personalisation are further proof that 3D printing is a game-changer for car production.”

If you’ve got carbon fibre wheels on your Mustang GT350R or Ford GT, these unique items could be a worthwhile investment…

2020 Ford Puma review: top of the crossover class

Take Britain’s best-seller, fortify it into something more fashionable, then add a sprinkling of off-road attitude. Catnip for car buyers, right? Not necessarily.

The 2014 Ecosport was Ford’s last attempt at a Fiesta-based small SUV. Designed primarily for India and South America, it felt woefully off the pace in Europe: a second-world car that became a first-world problem. A critical drubbing led to slow sales, which even a comprehensive facelift in 2017 couldn’t fully fix.

Despite borrowing its name from Ford’s curvy late-90s coupe – also derived from the Fiesta, of course – the new Puma is effectively a successor to the Ecosport (although, bizarrely, the latter car lives on as a cheaper alternative). And this time, Ford isn’t doing things by halves.

The Puma, you see, is more than simply a taller Fiesta. Priced from £20,545, it has some genuinely clever features, plus lively handling and bountiful boot space. Spoiler alert: I think it could be the compact crossover to beat. Let’s start with the styling…

Different by design

Distinctive design can make or break a car in this sector. Looking different to a humdrum hatchback is what counts, even if that means being willfully weird. How else do you explain the success of the Nissan Juke?

Thankfully, the Puma is easier on the eye than the Juke. Deep bumpers and fulsome haunches provide some visual muscle, while a steeply-raked windscreen adds a dose of dynamism. But its overall design is soft and friendly-faced (Ford points out the ‘optimistic’ front grille).

The luxury-focused Titanium model has black wheelarch extensions, while those of the sportier ST-Line are body colour. Both wear 17-inch alloys – or 18s for the flagship ST-Line X. You can upgrade to 19s, too, for the full pimp-my-Puma look.

There aren’t so many personalisation options as the Volkswagen T-Cross, for instance, but bold LED running lights and a bright palette of paint colours help the Puma stand out.

A family-sized Fiesta

Inside is where things get really interesting. You’ll recognise the Fiesta dashboard, but the digital dials are new. The 12.3-inch display changes appearance according to which drive mode you select. More on those shortly.

The high-mounted centre touchscreen is easy to use while driving, and is supplemented by voice controls and shortcut buttons on the steering wheel. My test cars both had the 10-speaker B&O Premium hi-fi, which is great value at £450.

The Puma’s seats are mounted 60mm higher than a Fiesta, which gives a more commanding view of the road. A 10cm longer wheelbase also liberates enough legroom for lanky teenagers in the back, although they may baulk at the lack of USB points. Removable seat covers, which can be unzipped and washed are a neat touch, albeit not confirmed for the UK market.

The boot holds a class-leading 456 litres of luggage (401 litres in hybrid versions): more than the Kuga SUV from the class above. The load area is usefully square, too, at one metre wide and up to 1.15 metres tall. Open the – optionally electric – tailgate and the flexible parcel shelf lies flat against the rear window, so you don’t need to remove it when carrying bulky loads.

There’s also an 80-litre, rubber-lined storage compartment beneath the boot floor, which Ford calls the ‘Megabox’. A removable plug means you can rinse it out with water, which then drains away beneath the car. It’s the perfect place to stash muddy shoes or sports gear.

From mild to wild

The launch engine line-up comprises Ford’s familiar 1.0-litre Ecoboot petrol in three guises: 125hp, 125hp with mild-hybrid (MHEV) tech and 155hp MHEV. This isn’t a hybrid in the usual sense; it can’t drive on electric power alone, nor can it be plugged in. Instead, the batteries harvest braking energy to boost the engine when needed – and power the start-stop system.

The result is useful fuel savings. The 125hp MHEV manages 43.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 124g/km in the latest WLTP tests, versus 40.6mpg and 131g/km for the same engine without electrical assistance. The 155hp version costs £750 more upfront, but there’s little penalty at the pumps: it returns 42.0mpg and 127g/km.

Frankly, neither engine is a ball of fire. The 125hp car reaches 62mph from rest in 9.8 seconds, while the more powerful model is 0.8 seconds swifter. However, fast Ford fans may not have long to wait for a Puma ST, development of which is rumoured to be well underway. If it’s as dynamically deft as the hot Fiesta, it could be a game-changer.

Less excitingly, there’s also a 1.5-litre diesel and seven-speed automatic gearbox in the works, both due in May 2020. As well as other models, this combination will be offered in the forthcoming flagship ST-Line X Vignale, which combines racier styling with a plush, fully-loaded interior. The aim, according to one Ford spokesperson, is to “tempt buyers downsizing from larger diesel SUVs”.

Handle with flair

The Puma weighs just 60kg more than a Fiesta, so both engines feel adequately brisk. Indeed, I’d be tempted to stick with the 125hp MHEV. The extra oomph served up by its mild-hybrid system compensates for its small displacement, making for eager acceleration out of bends. The downside is a lot of thrummy three-cylinder noise under load.

Cleverly, the hybrid system cuts the engine as you coast to a stop, then restarts it in 300 milliseconds (literally the blink of an eye, says Ford) when you need to pull away. The process is utterly seamless, too.

There are five drive modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Trail, although with passive dampers their effect is mostly limited to steering and throttle response, along with stability and traction control calibration. Don’t get too carried away in Trail either: the front-wheel-drive-only Puma is no Land Rover.

In terms of chassis set-up, the Ford sits at the sportier end of the spectrum. Its ride is taut and measured – perhaps too firm on 19-inch wheels: try before you buy – and it corners with calm composure. The steering is nicely weighted, although it doesn’t fizz with feedback like a Fiesta, and its manual gearshift is notchy and tactile.

Ultimately, the Puma isn’t as much fun as a Fiesta or Focus, but there’s a pleasing coherence to its controls, and responses on the road, which makes it the small crossover of choice for those who enjoy driving. Ford has a knack for getting this stuff right.

2020 Ford Puma: verdict

Usually when writing a crossover review, I conclude by suggesting you choose the hatchback instead. Conventional cars are generally cheaper to buy and run, drive better and are scarcely less spacious. In the case of cars like the dismal Vauxhall Mokka X, not to mention the original UK Ecosport, fashion has a lot to answer for.

Today’s conclusion is less clear-cut, as the Puma offers some real advantages over its smaller sibling. It’s genuinely practical enough for a family of four, with the reassurance of a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. It also offers technologies that aren’t available on the Fiesta, plus, it doesn’t sacrifice decent handling on the altar of raised ride height and a rugged look.

This is an extremely competitive class, with the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, Seat Arona and Peugeot 2008 among an ever-expanding cadre of rivals. The Puma’s sportier bent may not suit everyone, but it certainly should be on your radar if you like this type of car. This time, I think Ford has a hit on its hands.

Ford Puma ST-Line 125hp MHEV: specification

Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol mild-hybrid

Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive

Power: 125hp

0-62mph: 9.8 seconds

Top speed: 119mph

Fuel economy: 40.6mpg

CO2: 131g/km (WLTP)

Length/width/height: 4,207/1,930/1,552mm

Boot size: 401 litres

Euro NCAP safety rating: 5 stars

2020 Ford Puma example prices

Titanium 125hp manual: £20,545

ST-Line 125hp MHEV manual: £21,795

ST-Line X 155hp MHEV manual: £23,645

2020 Ford Puma: in pictures

Ford has been America’s best-selling auto brand for a decade

Ford America's best-selling brand for a decade

As the motoring world takes stock of 2019, Ford can proudly talk of a longer-standing achievement. It has officially been the best-selling auto brand in America for a decade.

This is no surprise result for the Blue Oval, however. Its F-Series pick-ups have been at the top of the truck charts in America for 43 years. And for 38 years, they’ve been its favourite vehicles overall.

In 2019, the F-Series and Ranger sold nearly a million units.

Ford America's best-selling brand for a decade

In spite of the contraction of the sports car market worldwide, the Mustang remains a success for Ford. It was America’s best-selling sports car in 2019, and gained a 20 percent jump in the final months of the year – perhaps due to the introduction of the GT500.

Another big success story is the Transit van. It had its best year yet in the US market, since its introduction Stateside in 2014.

Overall, Ford has been America’s best-selling commercial van manufacturer for more than four decades straight.

Ford America's best-selling brand for a decade

“America’s best-selling brand for the past decade is on a roll,” said Mark Laneve, Ford vice president for US marketing sales and service.

“F-Series celebrates 43 years as the country’s favourite truck and 38 years as its overall vehicle, and Transit stood at the top of the van podium again. We promised a winning portfolio and that;s what we’re delivering with more on the way, including Mustang Mach-E, an all-new F-150 and the return of Bronco. It’s going to be an exciting year for new product at Ford.”

Ford America's best-selling brand for a decade

The total vehicle sales figures are slightly down when compared with 2018, though. There’s been a 1.3 percent drop in the fourth quarter of the year.

The most dramatic drop was in car sales, with a 41 percent fall for Q4, compared with 2018. Trucks witnessed a 15.9 percent jump for Q4, although SUVs were down 4.1 percent.